BOOK REVIEWS

NGaimam 5hatFirst, let me just preface the following review by disclosing that I am a HUGE Neil Gaiman fan. Put his name on anything and I’ll probably buy it. Growing up, the Sandman comics were a major influence in defining my interests in both reading and writing. So it’s probably important to say up front that I approach this review with a bit of bias.  Nevertheless, with the Art of Neil Gaiman, author Hayley Campbell delivers everything a fanboy/fangirl could possibly want and yet totally introduces new writers and readers to the Gaiman universe.

Miss Campbell has very obviously gone to great lengths and put a lot of work into this wonderful book and I very much enjoyed getting to peek behind the curtain of some of the stories which I have enjoyed over the years.  There are tons of wonderful insights into Neil Gaiman’s thoughts, his scribbles, his doodles, notes and sketches. As a writer, and as a fan, I really enjoyed this biographical journey and I believe that any artists or aspiring writers will be astonished at how much they will get out of reading this book.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 Hat rating because reading this book was like being able to sit down and have a chat with the man himself. If you want to explore the imagination and thought process of a great writer, than The Art of Neil Gaiman is for you. It is presented in a wonderfully delightful way and I think that even people who aren’t familiar with Neil Gaiman will still appreciate reading about a career like his . You won’t be disappointed.

 

Bad Arguments

3.5hatI come from what some would call an “argumentative” family. We enjoy a good debate probably more than most. So when I received this as a gift from some friends over the holidays, I was touched. I must say that for it’s small size this book delivers some great information.  Not only does it teach rhetorical skills and provide sound methods of debunking fallacy, but it also teaches critical reasoning skills, all accompanied by some beautiful illustrations. I think many people would be surprised by how often they themselves might be guilty of false arguments after reading this book. I also think that insights might be found on how people might become better listeners to others who do try to posit alternative perspectives. This goes doubly so for houses that have children, who today seem to be less exposed to the art of formulating sound and informed arguments or more apt to taunt and bully a dissenter.

I’m giving this book a 3.5 hat rating. The one drawback for me was that on occasion,  some of the pictures don’t help to clarify the passages and in some instances might tend to even confuse the explanation.  Also to me there are some spots where in order to adhere to an abbreviated length, the passages sometimes are a bit lean in their explanation, even with the aid of a picture.  Still a fine, fine book and I think it’s a worth while addition for a family library.

 

Redshirts4hatRedshirts, by Hugo Award winning author John Scalzi, tells the story of the support crew on board the Universal Union Capital Ship, Intrepid, and all the perils they face on a daily basis.  I’m a relative newcomer to Mr. Scalzi’s work, but having been given this book by my brother-in-law over a loooonnng Thanksgiving holiday I actually burned through the pages.

I had heard lots about John Scalzi and his various sci-fi works, but having never sat down and read anything of his until Redshirts my first impression is that if his other work is anywhere near as good as Redshirts then I can see myself becoming a devoted fan.

Written as a type of “inside joke” for fans of the Star Trek TV series, this is a book extrapolates on the fate of the Redshirt, that guy on the away team that you somehow knew was going to die. In fact, the function of such characters being a an episode usually was to fall victim to any dangers in order for the main characters to navigate away from any trouble and save the day. Redshirts pokes fun at all those 70′s – 90′s sci-fi TV shows in a number of overt and subtle ways. Decks six through ten always suffer from explosive decompression during a fire fight, consoles on the bridge blow up in a shower of sparks every time the ship is hit by an energy weapon, you know, the little things that make sci-fi TV unique. Redshirts is a book that really pays homage to the genre, while perhaps poking some good-natured fun at it as well.  I found the whole story heartwarming and never condescending.

This book gets a 4 hat rating simply because I’m betting that it will likely only appeal to a defined demographic of people, the kind who would feel more at home at Comic-Con than partying at the local bar, for example.  However, if the Star Trek universe is uninteresting to you then you might have a rough time trying to understand a lot of the set-up material or the punchlines. Honestly – if you are a sci-fi geek like me, you will assuredly get a kick out of reading this book and if you aren’t – you probably won’t. Being the big sci-fi nerd that I am, I totally did.